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The Odyssey

By Jasmienyes Apr 12, 2015 1866 Words

Juliann Rossi 
Dr. Motard Noar  
The Odyssey and Domineering Females  
In ​
The Odyssey​
, particularly during the ending of the epic, Homer challenges the  archetype of male dominance by essentially making Odysseus powerless, and instead, while it is  often disguised, gives the female characters all the power and control.  This is seen most  obviously with Athena who saves Odysseus’ life countless times, and also with Penelope who  controls not only her husband but also several suitors. In addition, Circe, Calypso, and Arete  hold power over Odysseus as well as other men in ​ The Odyssey​

. These strong female characters 
exercise emotional, as well as physical control over their male counterparts, and oftentimes use  their feminine qualities to disguise their true motives.   In fact, the female characters had been in control long before the end of ​ The Odyssey​

, and 
subtly influenced the plotline throughout the entire epic. This is particularly noticeable in the  Telemachiad, with Penelopes treatment of the suitors. She tells the suitors that once she has  completed weaving a shroud for Odysseus’ father, she will remarry however the text states that,  “everyday she wove on the great loom ­ but every night by torchlight she unwove it”  (2:112­113).  

Despite her subordinate role as a woman, Penelope puts herself in charge of her own fate.  Penelope weaves to determine her identity and her fate, it is metaphorically a representation of  her manipulation of the suitors, and of her wavering mindset. She clutches onto the idea that  Odysseus will return home to Ithaca, but yet she is not confident enough to let the suitors slip 


away from her grasp. The concept of weaving connects to Helen of Troy who wove the events of  the trojan war, depicting her identity, and Athena who is in fact the goddess of weaving. In this  case, Penelope is able to disguise her unfinished shroud as a womanly weakness, when actually  “...the weaving represents female cunning and empowerment. Like Circe and Helena, Penelope  commands and controls her enchanted flock”  ( Van Oenen, 16).   Through this simple deceitful act of weaving and unweaving the shroud, Penelope gains  the upper hand, “She is not victimized by the suitors, nor is she pining away for Odysseus. She is  in a position of power and control.” (Clayton, 106). Though she remains loyal to her husband,  she asserts her independence, refusing to allow her every action to be driven by the absence of  her husband. Yet she is not intimidated  by the suitors forceful and aggressive attempts to win  over her hand in marriage. Although, she does  allows herself to indulge in the attention of the  suitors without committing infidelity, that is. And while her willingness to seduce and entice the  suitors is often viewed as a promiscuous and unfavorable quality, Penelope succumbing to the  flirtations of the suitors still do not even compare to the adultery committed by Odysseus.  Twenty years they spent apart from one another, and obviously there was temptation to pursue  other people.  

Odysseus gave into the temptation several times with Circe and especially Calypso with  whom he had an affair with for seven years.  In Book V of ​ The Odyssey​
, Calypso addresses the 
double standards that exist between men and women in reference to polygamous love when she  says, “ And so when Demeter the graceful one with lovely braids gave way to her passion and  made with Iason, bedding down in a furrow plowed three times ­ Zeus got wind of it soon  enough, I’d say, and blasted the man to death with flashing bulbs” (5: 138­142). Essentially 


Calypso is saying that the female goddesses are castigated and shamed when they pursue mortal  men, while the gods are can have sexual relations with mortal women without any negative  consequences. Even when the relations between a god and mortal woman can be construed as  rape, the gods do not receive any type of punishment or poor reputation. Thus

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